Exoplanetology never ceases to surprise and is constantly progressing. Recently, a team of researchers from several institutes, including the University of Liege, established a longitudinal thermal brightness map of 55 Cancri e, a “super-Earth”, which is approximately forty light-years away from Earth. The challenge was to measure the evolution of the brightness of the planet during its entire orbit around the host star. This data already exists for some gas giants, but is totally new for smaller planets. The data were obtained by photometric analysis of images taken by Spitzer, one of NASA’s space telescopes. These images made it possible to observe the hottest and coldest regions of the planet and to provide an estimate of some of its surface properties. The discovery marks the beginning of a new direction of research within the science of astrophysics: the study of the geological and atmospheric dynamics of small-sized exoplanets.
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